The Right Track or the Fast Track? My Liberal Education
On May 17, 2013, I sat at my high school graduation ready to leave and matriculate at a large, big name, and private university. In the months leading up to that day, I had toured and applied to more than a dozen universities and a few liberal arts colleges. At that point in my life, I was dead set on majoring in biomedical engineering. All of the tour guides at the universities fully supported that choice as the fast track to medical school and a guaranteed career.
Fast-forward to August 28, 2014, the day I moved into my dorm in Wilder Hall, here at Mount Holyoke. One year and another dozen college applications later and I had completed my last-minute gap year working at home and decided against the fast track to med school. I had felt pressure from the universities I looked at to settle on a major as soon as possible.
At Mount Holyoke I have found my place as a leader in the classroom. This past semester, two of my finals consisted of creative projects, which, coincidentally, I carried out by creating board games. In one, I made a logical thought game with lasers, designed to fulfill the Massachusetts state science curriculum for the fourth grade. In the other, a group and I created a decision-based game to simulate the experience of engaging with reproductive technologies such as in-vitro fertilization.
I have taken at least one seminar every semester here, and I have been a part of several ethical debates over the implications of genetic testing on embryos, debates that push me to think critical beyond just learning about the science behind these techniques.
Last year, I ran for class president and although I lost the election, I have no regrets. The community and support at Mount Holyoke allowed me to take a risk that I wouldn’t otherwise have been comfortable facing. I’ve also learned, quickly that leadership is more than just holding a formal leadership position in an organization. I am not sure that my personal experiences at a big university would have led to such varied and crucial opportunities to engage so fully in small-group projects that not only required critical thinking and creative problem solving but also called upon me to be a leader.
I am no longer on any track to medical school, a decision I made due in part to my exposure to the liberal arts. Although my time has been short at MHC, my experiences both in and out of the classroom have allowed me mobility in searching for the answer to that dread inducing question: what do I want to do with my life? I’m open to whatever the next five semesters bring as I continue to immerse myself in a true Mount Holyoke liberal arts education.
—By Nicole Villacres ’18
Although born in Quito, Ecuador, Nicole Villacres now lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas, when she’s not at Mount Holyoke. Nicole is a student intern at the Alumnae Association and a member of the varsity crew team.
January 15, 2016